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Bad Clients Don’t Get Better


If you’re dealing with a prospect that is giving you the run around it’s unlikely that they’ll ever become a client. So don’t waste your time on them.

Don’t spend your time thinking that bad clients or prospects are suddenly going to get better.

The tell-tale signs of this include:

  • They say they are too busy and that you should check back in a few months
  • They want to think about how to present the idea of hiring you to their board
  • They ask for a proposal without wanting to meet you first
  • They tell you they’ll call you back on a certain day or reply to your email and never do.

Am I suggesting that any prospect that shows the above signs will never become a client? No. What I’m suggesting is that you figure out as quickly as possible whether or not a prospect is actually serious about doing business with you.

If you see signs that they are, take immediate action to move things forward and setup a meeting with them.

If you’re getting the run around and feeling like things are going nowhere, it might be best to move on to the next.

Bad doesn’t get good

Another factor to consider is the behaviour of the prospect. If you don’t like the way they act or treat others, it’s unlikely you ever will.

If it takes them forever to reply to you, they probably won’t get any faster.

If they are rude or inconsiderate and don’t value your time or others around them, that’s not going to change.

Don’t spend your time thinking that bad clients or prospects are suddenly going to get better.

People can change. But change doesn’t happen often or quickly.

Be focused on the type of client you want to work with and build relationships with more like that.


Develop a predictable
pipeline of clients.

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16 thoughts on “Bad Clients Don’t Get Better

  1. Thanks Michael, spot on as usual!
    I’m guilty of spending time (too much time) working on getting shaky prospects over the line to become clients.
    I would’ve been far better off spending that time cementing my relationships with existing clients or sourcing new prospects.

  2. Shelley says:

    Very true. After a while, you can tell bad clients within a few minutes. Move onto the next because when you close that door, you open the door for the really great clients and they are out there waiting for you.

  3. Rohan Bhatt says:

    A very apt observation there Michael but as a consultant from India, I can say that I have to face similar challenges with every client and its not that they are bad as such. They think that because I am a consultant, I am destined to be pushed around by them. The thing that I started doing is that I have a habit of letting the client speak his heart out for the first 25 – 30 minutes of our first meeting. Beyond that, the client only gets attentive and listens to me. That’s when my pitch and idea seeds are planted in the client head. I never give a call back to the client. If he calls me back for a further discussion or doubts, it means that he is genuine and that its worth a shot.

    • Rohan that’s interesting. I’d look at having some follow up strategies as you’re likely leaving a lot of money on the table.

  4. George Opiyo says:

    Thanks Mike, I have had this experience over and over. At one time we had to leave a client,with a very lofty strategic plan that was very difficult to translate into doables. She kept on changing demands and results goal posts, and without committing them in writing. We later realized she only wanted us to take her company through the most difficult and troublesome stages that other consultants had heard problems moving past. We gave her firm a very strong take-off in their strategy implementation.Then she reverted to her “friends” who “drafted” the strategy document.She is still implementing and reviewing the strategy on the foundation we gave her firm,but she was a very difficult client.

  5. sheyi says:

    Thanks Michael

  6. In our organization, when we have a hunch that this potential client will be difficult, we respectfully decline to do the job. We prefer to work with clients that we can get along to form rapport and reputation in the industry. We try to associate ourselves with people that will eventually help us not destroy us.

  7. Peter Botting says:

    Spot on. I also apply it to existing clients who are tiresome or late payers. There are enough great clients out there. Its better to fire the 20% who are expensive in terms of money, time and emotional energy and find and serve the 80% who are wonderful. It’s worth it in the long term.

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